By Mark French
I love being a connected educator. I have gained immensely the past two years from connections I have with others through Twitter, Facebook, Voxer, Instagram, podcasts, at EdCamps, and in person. But, I have a confession, sometimes I feel inadequate.
I don’t have tens of thousands of followers. I haven’t incorporated maker space or genius hour in my school. I haven’t created a website or written a book. I haven’t gotten rid of my desk and I don’t visit classrooms as often as I would like. Please don’t get me wrong. I admire and respect others who have done and continue to do those things. In fact, I am in awe of their awesomeness
Before becoming a connected educator, I operated in a vacuum, in isolation. I would connect with my district colleagues but our work wasn’t about sharing best practices or what we were doing in our buildings. It was mostly about listening to district initiatives and making sure we were leading those. Being connected has opened a new world for me, a world in which I see the amazing things educators are doing every day. And that contributes to my feelings of inadequacy. Often, I have thought, “Wow, that is inspiring; I wish I could do that.” I wish I could communicate and reach out more through blogs, podcasts, videos, Periscope, and other media as prolifically and proficiently as others do. I wish I could spend more time in classrooms, on the playground, and learning with students as much as others do. When I have those feelings of inadequacy, there are four ways I work to overcome them.
First, I reach out to my PLC. Through Voxer and Twitter I can share with groups or individuals. The times I have reached out individually through Voxer and Twitter have been powerful and cathartic. It’s amazing that I can share through social media with other educators whom I have never met and feel supported and validated. Just being able to share and have another person, or persons, listen makes a huge difference for me.
Secondly, when I am feeling inadequate, I try new things. I remember to take small steps to put things into my practice. Last year’s stakeholder survey data indicated a need for improved communication. Over the summer, a principal in another state shared through Voxer how she was using Smore to create her school newsletter. I saw her end result and thought it would fit my need to improve communication. This year I have used Smore to create “Mark’s Monday Morning Memo” giving staff members more thorough information and highlighting student and staff contributions. Start small and make trying new things part of your practice. By learning from others I have explored and used augmented reality, robotics, video production, and coding.
Thirdly, when I have feelings of inadequacy, I share. I participate in Twitter chats and engage in Voxer discussions. Through thought provoking questions and engaged conversations, I glean a lot from others but I also get to share things I’m doing. The feedback and support I receive makes me feel like I am headed in the right direction. I had been contemplating finding a way to positively recognize more students. Last summer a teacher in a Twitter chat stated she made one positive phone call home daily for one of her students. I thought, “I can do that!” So, this year I stared my #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay by selecting a different student worthy of a positive call home. Sometimes I identify the student based on something I have observed and other times I’ll ask a teacher for someone who needs a boost or has demonstrated growth and improvement. Making the #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay is a highlight of my day.
Finally, if I am feeling inadequate, I take personal inventory of the things I am doing to positively impact my school, staff members, families, and students. I try to remember not to compare myself to others because each of us and our situations and experiences are unique. I need to have a confident mindset that what I am doing is right for me at the moment. I go through cycles during the year where my attitudes, engagement, and activities wax and wane, but when I take time to personally reflect, things become more clear and evident that I am on the right path and doing the right thing for students and colleagues.
Mark French is a positive change agent and Elementary lead learner in the greater Minneapolis, MN area. He has also been recognized as the Minnesota Principal of the Year and currently serves as the president of the Minnesota Elementary Principal’s Association.
Tags: Communication, Connected Leaders, Edtech, PLC